A Spring Photo Tour of Duke Gardens (Part 1)

Color abounds this time of year at Sarah P. Duke Gardens, “the crown jewel of Duke University” and the recipient of multiple horticulture awards. In recent weeks, steady streams of visitors have enjoyed this lovely, living showcase of plants and wildlife.

The tulips on the Italian-style Historic Terraces have been spectacular!

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The Duke Gardens Terraces in early April. (Durham, NC)

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Tulips & daffodils bask in the sunshine near the Historic Terraces pergola. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

Although such dazzling displays steal the spotlight, there are other gems tucked among the tulips.

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When walking the allees of the Historic Terraces, the tendency might be to look down—at clusters of colorful tulips or at the koi in the fish pool (the latter of which is especially popular with the kiddies). When one looks up, behold! Beautiful magnolia blooms. The variety pictured here, called a Sunspire Magnolia, grows on a narrow tree with upward-facing flowers, making it great for small gardens or tight spaces. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

The adjacent Culberson Asiatic Arboretum is replete with wildlife and flowering trees.

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In early April, pops of color from the flowering peach, cherry, and redbud trees took center stage in the Asiatic Arboretum. — Duke Gardens, Durham, NC (pictured here: Chinese redbud)

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The story behind this photo: As I was leaving the Gardens after a lunchtime photo-taking extravaganza earlier this month, I spotted a cardinal perched near the Japanese-style Arched Bridge. My camera was already turned off and stowed away. In my experience, cardinals are skittish so I wasn’t sure I could capture the scene–but I wanted to try! A short way off to my left, a chattering group of garden guests were approaching. I snapped three pictures before the happy visitors reached the spot. A fourth photo is of the iconic red bridge…and the tips of a cardinal’s tail feathers in the top right corner!

Subtle splendor of the indigenous variety springs up along the meandering paths of the Memorial Garden and the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. To the casual onlooker, these areas of Duke Gardens may appear a bit drab. Not so, in my humble opinion. A closer look reveals the intricacy of the leaves and blooms—displays of creation that are carefully planned and far from ordinary.

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Dutchman’s Breeches are commonly found on the forest floor of a woodland habitat. These native plants are a wild version of Bleeding Hearts. — Blomquist Garden of Native Plants

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Celandine poppies in the 6.5-acre Blomquist Garden of Native Plants add a splash of golden-yellow color to the predominantly green landscape. These native wildflowers are sometimes referred to as wood poppies. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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The 1.5-acre Memorial Garden doesn’t get as much foot traffic as the neighboring Terraces or the Asiatic Arboretum, but it’s a tranquil place to sit for a spell. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

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The delicate white flowers of this “Summer Snowflake” plant didn’t look like much until I stooped down for a closer look. — Duke Gardens’ Memorial Garden; Durham, NC

Although each area of Duke Gardens is distinctly themed, the entire 55-acre expanse flows seamlessly. (There are four main gardens in all: Historic Gardens, Doris Duke Center Gardens, H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, and the W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. Part 2 of my photo tour will feature the Doris Duke Center Gardens.)

With the passing of time, the early spring colors are beginning to fade. Not to worry! There always seems to be something in bloom in this “garden for all seasons.”

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